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Avoiding the Unintended Consequences of Reported Pool Chlorine Shortage

As the 2021 swim season approaches, there is concern that a reported significant shortage of one type of chlorine-based swimming pool water disinfectant could inadvertently put public health at risk this summer. The scenario was set last August when fire damaged a Louisiana facility that manufactures much of the country’s chlorinated isocyanurates. Published reports suggest that the plant will not resume operations until May 2022. For more details, read the following press release from Bio-Lab, Inc. Meanwhile, record sales of backyard pools during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a public yearning to return to normal recreational activities this summer, are expected to raise the demand for chlorinated disinfectants.

Chlorine-based products are popular and highly effective swimming pool disinfectants. Most waterborne pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are destroyed by chlorine disinfectants within minutes of contact in properly treated pools. Chlorine-based disinfectants, including the chlorinated isocyanurates, chlorine bleach, and calcium hypochlorite, continue to destroy waterborne pathogens long after they are added to water, an essential attribute for keeping pool swimming healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls chlorine and pH “Your Disinfection Team” for protection against recreational water illnesses, such as diarrhea and swimmer’s ear.

Given the realities of the coming season, The Chlorine Institute encourages backyard pool owners and pool managers to maintain pool chlorine levels and pH in the CDC-recommended ranges. Additionally, it may be helpful to recognize that poor swimmer hygiene and sharing the pool with pets depletes chlorine in the water. The following tips can help make the most of the chlorine in your pool:

  • Maintain a pool chlorine level of at least 1 ppm (at least 2 ppm if using a chlorinated isocyanurate, according to CDC). The pH should be within the range of 7.2 to 7.8.
  • Ensure the pool filter is working correctly to remove organic debris.
  • Encourage all swimmers to shower before entering the pool.
  • Instruct swimmers to refrain from “peeing in the pool.” Periodic bathroom breaks for younger children could help prevent “accidents.”
  • Keep in mind that allowing pets in the water increases the need for disinfectant.

Are you planning a vacation or a trip to a public pool? Pack portable pool test strips (generally available at hardware, big box, and pool supply stores) to check the chlorine level and pH of the water in unfamiliar pools. If readings fall out of the recommended ranges, consult the pool manager.


Here’s to a healthy and refreshing summer pool season!